Book review: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns got pushed up higher in my TBR pile for the simple reason that I got the movie on Blu-Ray and wanted to read the book first. (So that way I can complain bitterly about any changes I don’t like. It’s a tradition for me, like relatives drinking and fighting during the holidays.) This makes my third book by John Green, and something I like is how each story is unique. There’s familiar elements, certainly, like the trademark sarcasm and humor displayed by all the characters, but each book is something new and unexpected.

Paper Towns has the feel of a mystery, one Quentin Jacobsen has to unravel surrounding his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Although these two initially started life as infantile and childhood friends, Margo went on to achieve a legendary high school reputation while Quentin became a nobody who can only watch his idol from afar and admire her for the crazy things she’s done over the years. But one night, Margo comes to him with a crazy plan, and Quentin goes along with it, never suspecting that Margo will very soon disappear again.

Which brings in the mystery, as Quentin and his friends try to piece together clues Margo left behind and find out if she has merely checked out of town or out of life entirely. The mystery itself is pretty good, and even when it gets slow or repetitive, it’s still a fun read. I like how Quentin begins to understand that his perception of his idol is nothing at all like the real person, and how this evolving view is what actually leads him to solving the mystery.

But the ending…I don’t want to spoil it, but it was something of a let down. It’s so inconsistent with everything else that happens in the story, and even if I think the final pages make up for it, I got to a certain point near the end and was just kind of shaking my head about how little sense certain parts made.

Still, it’s a good book, one that made me laugh often and read sections to my husband. Quentin’s character is likeable, even if at times the way he talks reminded me of someone raised in the 90’s. (Possibly someone in their thirties who still doesn’t know that YouTube or Wikipedia are a Thing Now. (And while I’m at it, would it kill this guy to actually look up a modern video game instead of making them up on the fly? Because speaking as a lifelong gamer, I think his ideas for what video games are like are as lame as chaperoned parties.)) I’m looking forward to the next John Green book in my TBR pile, Looking for Alaska, whenever it rises up among my many other choices. (Or when the movie comes out, whichever happens first.)

I’ll give Paper Towns three stars and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun mystery with lots of humor and charm.